"For The Voice it was favor, favor, favor..."
Mathai is an AMTC grad who worked her way to becoming a finalist on NBC’s The Voice. Since her star turn, Mathai has since busied herself with recording a new album, touring with rapper LeCrae, forming a production company and going back to school to study nursing. She slowed down just long enough to chat.
What have you done recently and do you have anything happening in the near future?
Well…AMTC really started things, then The Voice happened and kicked off the rest for me. It gave me a lot of connections and a lot of open doors that weren’t open before. A lot of producers were willing to work with me.
I spent the rest of that year touring and doing lots of shows everywhere. Then I worked with LeCrae and was on his album Gravity which won a Grammy. We went on tour in the UK which got me a lot more fans in the Christian sphere, which was really cool.
Then I formed a production company with producer, Drew Castro, who really believes in me. We created and released the EP Girl Like Me this past summer and did a lot of shows with that. I also just got a record deal on All That Is Entertainment out of LA.
I’m on a Radio reality show with Q100 and The Bert Show. I talk about how I’m juggling music with what I’m doing currently – which is school! I moved back to Dallas to finish nursing school. I’m trying to do both. It’s a crazy, hectic schedule.
I really want to commit to something and finish it. When I finish school I will fully commit to being an artist and I’m going to throw myself out there and give it everything I’ve got.
You are so busy! You mentioned The Voice. How did that opportunity happen? How was that experience?
I didn’t have any special connection to The Voice. A lot of people who made it had a special connection, but I auditioned with 3000 others in Atlanta and made it through. I think I was one of 7 people in GA who made it in the top finalist group.
I had never really been singled out like that for my talent. It was really a God thing. Nothing about me is attention getting. I don’t have that personality. I’m kind of unassuming. I do my own thing. So, for someone to hear me sing and say that there is something extraordinary about me is a God thing. It was Him showing me favor and making me shine in that moment… even with things I wore… they said that I was so creative.
I mean, I had the same personality when I auditioned for The X Factor. I was the same person. But the judge wasn’t receptive. He really didn’t listen to my singing. He barely looked at me and cut me off after a few words. But I didn’t look at that as a bad thing. I looked at that as not God’s plan. For The Voice it was favor, favor, favor. When you see that, you know it’s a Divine Hand in the mix and it was making something awesome happen.
Even with Adam (Levine from The Voice) – he loved me. America was loving me… it was so unexpected for me. That was really shocking. I don’t think anything came from me, it was favor from God. It was nothing that I could have gotten on my own. I think they were seeing God in me.
One other funny, related story: I didn’t have time to learn the lyrics to the song for my audition, so I wrote the words to the song on my arm in marker — pretty unclassy. When they asked, "What does your tattoo say?" I told them it was my lyrics and they started laughing, but they didn’t think anything of it.
You are immersed in this industry that has a negative reputation. Did you have challenges on set? Did you ever go through something that could have compromised your faith or standards?
I was really strong in my faith during The Voice. I never really went through any challenges during The Voice itself. We were so busy I didn’t have time to be tempted. I was just working.
When I came back to Atlanta after The Voice, when I was living by myself, that’s when the challenges started. I had to wrestle with a lot of things. It’s hard being a child in the music industry. Even though I was 20, I was still a child. You have to stay close to the Lord and close to those who you trust and those who love Jesus. They will give you the words that you need to hear. I have my parents and my friends. They gave me the hard wisdom that I needed to hear that I didn’t necessarily want to hear.
And what’s crazy is that when the record label found out, they said, "We don’t want someone who’s double minded and who’s not dedicated. We don’t want to sign her anymore." So I thought I lost the record deal. But I was ok with that. I believed I was in God’s will.
But they called back two days later and said, "We believe that this girl has something special, and we believe she can impact the world. We still want to sign her and we’re willing to wait until she gets out of school."
That event showed evidence to me that God is good. And if God wants to glorify me, He will glorify me and it’ll be in His timing. If you put God first, even when it’s hard, even when you don’t want to, He will honor that and bless you so much more than you can ever imagine.
How has AMTC affected you and how did AMTC help your career?
Jump-starting and diving into this career with AMTC kind of set my standards. Those seminars on the importance of being an example, being a testimony and being a light were so useful to me. I would not have had that information in the back of my head always reminding me.
With AMTC you talk to other artists and other creative people who love God and want that to be their center. It’s what I go back to when I stray away. I go back to: Am I being a testimony? Am I being a light? Am I compromising? All the things I heard at AMTC.
What advice would you give to future performers who want to make a positive impact for God?
I would first ask why you want to be in the industry… really genuinely ask that.
Don’t do this until you genuinely want to honor God. And if you genuinely want to honor God you have to be ready for anything and go wherever He wants you to go, whether it’s the most minor role, once in your life, or the biggest roles in movie after movie, with world-wide fame. You have to be able to handle that. If you do get that fame then you have to realize: to whom much is given, more is required.